Aluminium salts in Deodorants - Is it dangerous?

Deodorants and antiperspirants seem to be constantly in the line of fire in regards to cosmetics with potential dangers to our health. Parabens in cosmetics was discussed previously (read all about it HERE), where we concluded that as long as you're not pregnant or male, there's really not that much to worry about. Today, I have a look at the other bad-guy found in deodorants, or rather antiperspirants: Aluminum salts. Aluminum salts work to prevent sweat from reaching the surface of the skin: the aluminium salts interact with the keratin fibrils in the sweat ducts and form a physical plug that prevents sweat from reaching the skin’s surface. Aluminium salts also have a slight astringent effecton the pores; causing them to contract, further preventing sweat from reaching the surface of the skin. Antiperspirants attempt to stop or significantly reduce perspiration and thus reduce the moist climate in which bacteria thrive.

The salts are: Aluminium chloride, aluminium chlorohydrate, and aluminium-zirconium compounds, most notably aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly and aluminium zirconium trichlorohydrex gly, are frequently used in antiperspirants.

Alluminium and the skin: Studies on mice have found that the absorption of aluminum through the skin causes a greater burden on the body than oral ingestion.  Humans also absorb aluminum through the skin: a 2001 study showed that aluminum was still present in blood samples 15 days after one application of aluminum to the armpit. Consequently, applying aluminum to the skin is a very effective way to get aluminum in your system.

Healh Effects:

1. Allergies: A small percentage of people are allergic to aluminium and may experience contact dermatitis, characterized by itchy, red and raised skin (weals), when exposed to aluminium-containing deodorants. It was also found that using a deodorant containing zirconium, may result in an allergic, axillary granuloma response (nodules in the armpit). Deodorant crystals containing synthetically made potassium aluminium were found to be a weak irritant to the skin, as well, so might not be such a great alternative to you with sensitive skin as the advertisement often claims.

2. Neurotoxicity: Aluminium, has been established as a neurotoxin. At high doses, aluminium itself adversely affects the blood–brain barrier, and is capable of causing DNA damage. Research has shown that high doses of the aluminium salts used in antiperspirants have detrimental effects to a number of species such as non-human primates, mice,and dogs. Alzheimers- Studies have found that aluminum absorbs better through the skin than orally. When using antiperspirants, one only applies very little aluminum to the skin. However, daily use results in chronic exposure to aluminum. One study has asserted that the use of aluminum based antiperspirants increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 60%. Flaten states in a 2001 Brain Research Bulletin that considerable evidence exists that aluminum may play a role in the cause/origin or in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, the question that is still open to debate is whether aluminum is the main cause of Alzheimer’s.

3.Cancer: In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, researchers tested breast samples from 17 breast-cancer patients who had undergone mastectomies. The women who used antiperspirants had deposits of aluminum in their outer breast tissue. Concentrations of aluminum were higher in the tissue closest to the underarm than in the central breast. Aluminium is known to be capable of causing both DNA alterations and epigenetic (altering of gene expression) effects, and this would be consistent with a potential role in breast cancer. Results reported demonstrate that aluminium in the form of aluminium chloride or aluminium chlorhydrate can interfere with the function of oestrogen receptors. This adds aluminium to the increasing list of metals capable of interfering with oestrogen action and termed metalloestrogens. Further studies are now needed to identify the molecular basis of this action, the longer term effects of aluminium exposure and whether aluminium can cause aberrations to other signalling pathways in breast cells.

4. Kidney damage: The FDA warns "that people with renal dysfunction may not be aware that the daily use of antiperspirant drug products containing aluminium may put them at a higher risk because of exposure to aluminium in the product." The agency warns people with renal dysfunction to consult a doctor before using antiperspirants containing aluminium.

Final thoughts:

Given the wide exposure of the human population to antiperspirants, it will be important to have a look at whether long term low level absorption could play a role in the increasing incidence of breast cancer. One study also concluded that shaving of the armpits resulted in higher levels of aluminium salts in breast tissue, as well as diagnosis of breast cancer at an earlier mean age. It's clear that there are links to two potentially devastating diseases, Alzheimer's and breast cancer, and although the link has not yet been one hundred percent clarified in both cases, it's there, and we should take precautions while we wait for further clarification, right? At least I will.

Alluminium salt-free deodorant:

This one from Vichy, is completely free from aluminium salts and parabens, and comes with worldwide delivery: Vichy 24h dry touch deodorant roll on.

Sources: Anane, Rachid, Michelle Bonini, Jean-Marie Grafeille, and Edmond E. Creppy. “Bioaccumulation of Water Soluble Aluminium Chloride in the Hippocampus After Transdermal Uptake in Mice.” Archives of Toxicology 69 (1995): 568-571. PubMed. 22 Jan. 2008. Flaten, Trond P. “Aluminium as a Risk Factor in Alzheimer’s Disease, with Emphasis on Drinking Water.” Brain Research Bulletin 55 (2001): 187-196. 19 Jan. 2008 •  Flarend, R, T Bin, D Elmore, and S L. Hemb. “A Preliminary Study of the Dermal Absorption of Aluminium From Antiperspirants Using Aluminium-26.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 39 (2001): 163-168. 22 Jan. 2008 Jansson, Erik T. “Aluminum Exposure and Alzheimer’s Disease.” Journal of Alzheimer\’s Disease 3 (2001): 541-549. 9 Jan. 2008 Exley, Christopher, Phd. “Aluminum in Antiperspirants: More Than Just Skin Deep.” The American Journal of Medicine 117 (2004): 969-970. 18 Jan. 2008 b Garg S, Loghdey S, Gawkrodger DJ (January 2010). "Allergic contact dermatitis from aluminium in deodorants". Contact Dermatitis 62 (1): 57–8. Exley C, Charles LM, Barr L, Martin C, Polwart A, Darbre PD (September 2007). "Aluminium in human breast tissue". Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry 101 He BP, Strong MJ (January 2000). "A morphological analysis of the motor neuron degeneration and microglial reaction in acute and chronic in vivo aluminium chloride neurotoxicity". J. Chem. Neuroanat. 17 (4): 207–15. Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer. J Inorg Biochem. 2005 Sep;99(9):1912-9.

An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2003 Dec;12(6):479-85.